Smothered Chicken

Otherwise known as the dish that was so awesome that I scarfed down all of the servings (well, and the rest of the family did, as well) before I could snap a pic.  I found the recipe at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.

To me, this comes under the variety of recipes that Outback Steakhouse’s Alice Springs Chicken and Chili’s Monterey Chicken, that is, chicken seared or grilled, slathered with a sauce or dressing (in Alice Springs Chicken it’s honey mustard, Monterey Chicken has BBQ sauce, and this recipe has Caesar salad dressing–I used the creamy Caesar dressing), topped with cheese and usually bacon with onions of some kind and possibly tomato.

And the best part?!?!  I almost followed the recipe exactly.

Yes.

Almost.

I bought a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend and used that.  Then, I poured extra Caesar dressing in the bottom of the pan and sprinkled some of the extra toppings to make a complex “gravy” for the mashed potatoes I served with them.

The first time I made this recipe, I fell in love.

I didn’t have anywhere for the extra “gravy” to go, so I made sure to serve them with mashed potatoes this time.  And I mean the real thing.  Take the vegetable peeler, peel the potatoes, dice the potatoes, boil the potatoes, drain the potatoes, and mash the potatoes showing no mercy for the potatoes, milk, or butter that melted delightfully in the steaming vat of potato-ey goodness.

The first time I made this recipe, I had intended for the leftovers to be sent to my dad while we kidnapped my mom for a weekend of fun in Dallas.  Umm, there weren’t any leftovers available that time.

So, I made it yesterday and decided to take the meal to my parents’ house.

They both liked it.  Muffin loved the sauce on the potatoes, although he made me leave the green onions off of his.

Smothered Chicken

Mostly Followed from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms

4-5 chicken breasts (split in half lengthwise if the breasts were humongous like the only ones I can find)

Montreal chicken seasoning (Until this recipe, I was unaware of any Montreal seasoning other than steak)

salt

cheddar-jack blend cheese

2 large ripe Roma tomatoes, petite diced

5 thick-sliced slices of bacon (I used Brookshire’s brand), cooked using your preferred method and crumbled into small pieces or 1/2 of one package of real bacon bits

1 small bunch of green onions, sliced very thinly (including greens)

creamy Caesar salad dressing

olive oil or bacon grease

Prepare chicken breasts for the fridge by halving (if necessary), sprinkling copiously with chicken seasoning and salt, and placing in a bowel to marinate for at least one hour-overnight.  Both times now I have forgotten this step until almost too late, so the marinating time is usually closer to an hour for me.

After the marinating time, preheat a pan (preferably cast iron) to setting 7 with bacon grease or olive oil puddling in the bottom of the pan.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  When the pan is hot, sear both sides of each piece of chicken for 3-5 minutes per side.  Place the completed pieces (browned and caramelized but not cooked all the way through) on a foil-lined half sheet pan.  Once all pieces are seared, drizzle Caesar salad dressing over each breast.  Using a pastry brush (preferably with silicone bristles), spread the dressing on each breast.  Add more dressing, if necessary, to coat completely each breast.  Drizzle some more around the chicken in the pan.

Sprinkle with cheese (I tend to go fairly heavy on the cheese–the top surface needs to be coated) and then the bacon and the green onion.  Any bacon or green onion leftovers need to be sprinkled in the “empty” areas of the pan.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, sprinkle with tomatoes.  Bake an additional 10 minutes.  Serve chicken alongside rice or mashed potatoes topped with the “gravy” you made.

This recipe is Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

This meal would also make an excellent Sunday Supper!

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Sunday Suppers: Creamy “Swiss” Chicken Bake and a Side

On Monday, when I was supposed to be making a meal of Sesame Chicken and rice (as my MPM post suggested), I busily made the dish (above).  I blame Facebook.  I had just posted Monday’s post with the meal plan, and I was checking Facebook to make sure it had posted on Facebook, as well.  Well, I found a suggested post from Lil Luna for Creamy Swiss Chicken Bake.  It looked easy (In fact, she advertised it as prep in five minutes), so I decided to give it a try (plus, I had defrosted chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs for the sesame chicken).

But as I can’t seem to make things directly as directed in the recipe, I had to change things.  First of all, I was out of Swiss cheese and had very little Parmesan (and the few tablespoons I did have were a blend of parm and mozza).  Have no fear!  I had plenty of mozzarella (which she suggested as a substitution for the Swiss) and plenty of sharp cheddar (I’m sure you get where I’m going on this) to substitute for the Parmesan.

While I’m on the subject, do you say “supper” or “dinner”?  Muffin and I are having an ongoing argument debate about the name of the third meal of the day.  In fact, I’m not sure where “dinner” came from; my mom refers to it as supper, as well.  (Plus, supper is alliterative with two days of the week, whereas dinner is alliterative with exactly…none.)

I decided to serve it with the fresh green beans that I had purchased with some real bacon bits and dried minced onion rehydrated in some water that the beans were boiled in.  Very tasty!  And sort of true to the original meal’s intent.  We had chicken and green beans; they just weren’t sesame chicken and stir-fried green beans.  We even had rice to go along with it.

Although I served this on a Monday, this variation of smothered chicken would make an excellent Sunday Supper.

Creamy “Swiss” Chicken Bake

(Adapted from Lil Luna)

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used three humongous chicken breasts from Albertsons and cut each into three pieces)

shredded mozzarella (I used about 1 1/2 cups probably) or 6-8 slices Swiss cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (or parm-mozza blend)

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

cooked rice or mashed potatoes, to serve (She says the rice is optional, but a serving platform for the chicken and sauce is so completely not optional!)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9×13 glass or Pyrex pan with nonstick cooking spray.  After the fumes have subsided, take a deep breath of reverence for the perfection of 9×13 pans.  They are completely the unsung (or at least not sung enough) heroes of the kitchen.  Place chicken in a single layer in the pan.  Cover the chicken with the slices of Swiss or shredded mozza.  In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients (except rice), reserving some of the cheddar cheese.  If you feel the need to use reduced fat mayo and sour cream, no problem.  I used reduced fat sour cream because that’s what we had.

Spread the sauce over the chicken breasts (if you use shredded cheese, this is a more interesting venture).  Next time, I will probably thin the sauce with a bit of dry white wine.  Since dry white wine tastes wretched, I may not, but it seems to be a sauce that screams dry white wine.  Or dijon mustard, just a bit.

Cover with remaining cheddar (or Parm) cheese.

Bake at 375 for an hour.  Resist the urge to fall face-first into the pan, trust me.  Serve chicken and sauce atop rice or mashed potatoes.

Verdict:  I loved loved loved this, and it was Muffin Approved (although Muffin wanted to skip supper and any activity that stalled his going to Vacation Bible School).  I might add something else, maybe even a sprinkling of caramelized onions (or French-fried onions) next time.  I know; I’ve got to stop the tweaking.  Or, was that twerking?!?  No, seriously.  This girl can’t twerk.  There would be a me-sized dent in the floor if I tried.  This girl ain’t got no rhythm.

Fresh Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

(If I adapted it from somewhere, it wasn’t intentional.  To the best of my knowledge, this is an original of mine.)

1 pound fresh green beans, give or take a quarter pound, ends removed and cut into “canned cut green beans sized lengths”

2-3 tablespoons real bacon bits (I used Kroger brand)

1-3 tablespoons dried minced onion

water

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prep green beans as instructed above.  Place them in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle with bacon and onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover by a centimeter or so with water (maybe 1/2 inch).  Set the stove to high until the water boils, then reduce to 5 for 40 minutes or so until much of the water is evaporated.  (Note:  If the green beans turn grey, you’ve gone too far!)  They need to be tender, not mush.  Yes, I’m denigrating canned “green” beans here.  The first word of that descriptor (green) is how the beans should still be.  Reduce to low if the chicken is not done.  Serve alongside chicken and rice/potatoes (or any other equally yummy main dish that needs a green veg to make it complete).

Verdict:  Muffin loves green beans, and these were no exception.

Muffin Approved

Sunday Suppers: The Asian Miracle!!!

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This one photo represents years of desire and, conversely, gnashing of teeth, tears, and copious screams of frustration.

At long last, I have produced (with Josh’s help as fry cook) edible orange chicken.  Let me repeat that:  edible.  Orange.  Chicken.  The impossible has now become possible.

My sister has (for the past two days) been including on her Facebook page things to be thankful for (we are in November now, after all).  Saturday I wrote in the comments that I was thankful for walking shoes, water, wonderful coworkers, and (with my sister’s prompting) no leg cramps.  I completed my first mile plus 5K that day for the Komen Race for the Cure (walking, not running).  This pulled me wayyyyyyyyy out of my comfort zone because I don’t exercise.  Ever.  I have never felt that exercise endorphin rush.  Ever.  It’s not that I’m lazy.  I’m just clumsy.  I can literally trip over my own two feet.  I’m more prone to trip over my feet with my laces tied, if that gives you any indication of my clumsiness.  I do have to say, though, that the sense of fulfillment really clicked yesterday morning.  Others veered off right at the end to head to their cars, but I refused to veer off course until I crossed the finish line (at one hour, three minutes, and change for the 5K).

Of course, today the pain set in.  I have been taking lots of warm baths in the past 24 hours hoping to offset what I know will hit tomorrow.

Today, of course, I wrote that I was thankful for my family, especially Josh and Muffin.

It was truly a family effort today to pull together the feat of tonight’s menu.

When I told Josh earlier today what was on the menu, he winced.  Orange chicken, as I may have mentioned before, has always been a yummy dish in our household.  It’s my Chinese restaurant standard.  Which makes it all the worse when I cannot seem to reproduce it in an edible fashion in our own home.  I have attempted several varieties (including several failed slow cooker versions) and been moved to tears (NOT of happiness) several times.  Each time I have been sure, positive, motivated to prove that this recipe would work.  And faced disappointment time and time again.

But tonight’s attempt has set in motion my thankful item for day 3 (tomorrow):  I am thankful (and indebted) to Ree Drummond (a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman) for this recipe that she featured on her television show and later her blog.  It is because of her recipe that I cried tonight (tears of joy for the first time) over the orange chicken on my plate.  It is because of her that my mouth feels aromatically rank of garlic…green onion…ginger…and orange rind.  In a great way.

I also managed to produce another recipe that has eluded me in the past (but is one of Josh’s favorites at the Chinese restaurants):  Crab Rangoon.  I used another website’s recipe (that I like to call D Squared or D-word Delicious, for obvious reasons).  I did substitute Krab-with-a-K for the drained canned crab mentioned in her recipe (5 “legs” worth).

Here’s what Josh, Muffin, and I did for both.  I should note that the crab rangoon was Muffin Approved, but the orange chicken was not.  Sadly, for him, the orange chicken was (finally…FINALLY…) Mama and Dada approved.  As in…we will be making this again.

Orange Chicken

from Pioneer Woman’s website

I did make a few alterations, etc., so I am going to note where I veered.

Chicken:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of as much excess skin as possible), cut into small pieces (Think a 2×3 Lego brick)

4 egg whites, whipped until frothy

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

Note:  Pioneer Woman says to mix the cornstarch with the egg whites and then whip until frothy.  I found it useful to whip the egg whites a bit with the whisk and then add in the cornstarch.  Whichever way you do it, make sure your mixture is frothy and lump free when you add the chicken.  Add the chicken and then let it sit 5-10 minutes while you cook the sauce.

Sauce:

1/2 cup orange juice (Okay, this has ALWAYS been one of the key problems with the other recipes.  DO NOT be tempted to use frozen thawed concentrate or bottled orange juice.  Serious heartache will result…and a side of heartburn from the overly sour and bitter juice)  Josh and Muffin squeezed two small navel oranges and had almost 1/2 cup.  We went with it.

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used light brown…packed…plus a bit more.  I think I might make it 2 tablespoons next time)

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (Note:  I actually measured the brown sugar first, then the soy sauce, and then the rice wine vinegar.  This was to keep from having to dry the spoon before measuring the brown sugar.)

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

(I actually missed seeing the salt, so I omitted that)

1/4 teaspoon or more of crushed red pepper flake

1 clove garlic (I actually used two), minced

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (Um…I may have used more than the 2 teaspoons…and that was Josh’s one complaint…that there was too much ginger)

one orange, zest of, pulled off with a vegetable peeler in long strips, any excess pith removed from the strips (Her recipe calls for the microplane…and that’s my usual route…but then I also tried to change everything from my usual attempts)

1/4 cup water

2 green onions, sliced (white and green parts…trim the tops of the green parts, however)

While the chicken is hanging out in its frothy bath, mix together all of the sauce ingredients except for the green onion, water, and cornstarch.  In a sauce pan (what I used) or a nonstick skillet (what Pioneer Woman used), whisk together the ingredients.  Place the cooking vessel over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens.  Then, make a slurry with the cornstarch and the water.  I misread it (her recipe called for 1 teaspoon to 1/4 water), but it worked fine with one tablespoon.  I was overzealous in my desire for a thick sauce (because my past attempts had been watery and disgusting).

Once the sauce is done, it’s time to get your fry on…or, in this case, for Josh to get his fry on.  I used my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, but any heavy frying pot should work.  I attempted to use the fry thermometer, but it didn’t seem to be working correctly (and it got in the way).  You need to heat the oil (2 cups vegetable, canola, or peanut oil) to 350 degrees.  Note:  You may want to spray the Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray first.  I don’t know if it will make a difference, but the batter tends to make the chicken stick to the bottom and sides of the pot.  This is a two-person operation.  You need one person to plop the pieces in the oil and one to stir them around.  (I was the “plopper” and Josh was the “stirrer.”)

You only want to plop 5-7 pieces in at a time…one at a time…so they don’t stick together.  Here’s where I may veer further away from Pioneer Woman’s technique next time.  She recommends a two-stage frying process…2-3 minutes in the first time plus another minute later on.  I think next time I will just leave them in until done.  Josh painstakingly completed the two-stage process, however.

After cooking them the second time, drain them into the pan/skillet with the sauce, tossing them in the sauce.  There is not a lot of extra sauce, just enough to coat the chicken.  Stir in green onion.  We served it over rice…

…with Crab Rangoons (or Rangoonies, as I called them)

Josh again manned the oil, so it was imperative that I managed to finish a few batches (filled, folded, and sealed) before he finished with the chicken.  For that, I required the assistance of Muffin.

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He was my scoop-maker for the filling.

Crab Rangoon

Adapted from D-Word Delicious

First, I made the filling:

4 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

5 ounces faux crab (Krab) diced finely (I used the “legs”…five of them)

2 green onions, sliced thinly (both green and white parts)

2 small cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon sesame oil (because I didn’t have much left and still needed 1/4 teaspoon for the orange chicken…the original recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (just to be cheeky)

wonton wrappers (The original recipe calls for 24…I know I didn’t use that many)

2 cups veg oil (see above)

Combine all ingredients (except last two) in a bowl.  The hardest part will be making the cream cheese combine with the rest.  I used a fork kind of like a pastry blender to achieve the desired effect.  It will look something like this:

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Well…with a lot more in the bowl.

At this point, I enlisted child labor.  Muffin was responsible for scooping out rounded teaspoons of the mixture so that I could place them on the wrappers.  I had the wrappers, diamond shaped in front of me.  I placed the scoop of filling just below the halfway point on the wrapper (just below the two points).  Then, I moistened the two lower edges of the wrapper with water and sealed them, being careful to press out any air bubbles.

Josh used the already heated oil to cook the Rangoon, five at a time.  They cooked fast!  (about 30 seconds per side)  We served them with plum sauce, although any dipping sauce will do.

Josh and Muffin dipped theirs…I drizzled mine on (as you can see in the picture above).

Here was our bounteous bounty of Crab Rangoon:

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As I mentioned before, the Crab Rangoon was Muffin Approved (probably because he helped make it), but he really didn’t like the chicken.

Muffin Approved

What was your Sunday Supper this week?

Sunday Meals: Belgian Waffles for Breaky

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Yup.  That was breakfast.  I have found a go-to waffle recipe, just as I’ve found a go-to pancake recipe.  I had a bit of a hankering for waffles, and, rather than play the “breakfast game” with Josh (wherein it goes something like this…One of us tries to wake up the other asking “What do you want for breakfast?” to which the other answers “I don’t know; what do you want for breakfast?”  Then the first says “Well, I asked you first.  What do you want for breakfast?”  And on and on.

But this time…I knew what I wanted:  waffles.

But one thing that is inferior about homemade waffles:  they tend to be very finicky…particular.  You have to have buttermilk…or malt…or separate the eggs and beat the whites.  I don’t have the time or patience for that usually first thing in the morning.

So…I went on a search throughout the Pinteresting Blogosphere.  We have a Belgian waffle maker, not one of the ones that make the four flat waffles…one that makes the one big round.

I found this recipe.  Next time I make them, I will double the recipe and increase the amount of batter per waffle.  After three minutes in the maker (at the “4” setting on mine), waffles that are fluffy on the outside and crunchy crisp on the outside are produced.

Josh ate three.  I ate one, and I usually don’t eat a whole one.  (If you notice above, I used my Camu app to snap the photo with the Ethereal setting…my favorite.  It seems to cover up a load of flaws.)

You simply mix the ingredients with a whisk in a single bowl, and there you go.

The recipe comes from Super Swanky and is advertised as “Super Easy and Super Fluffy Belgian Waffles.”

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup flour (I used unbleached all-purpose)

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 heaping tablespoons sugar or 3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (I used regular table salt)

2 eggs (I used large)

1 3/4 cup milk (I used 2 %)

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (I used pure vanilla)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat your waffle iron.  I used setting four.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Before each waffle cooking, spray the surface with nonstick spray.  Pour 2/3-3/4 cup batter onto the iron (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup).  Close the iron, turn over the iron, and set your timer for three minutes.  DO NOT RELY ON THE WAFFLE IRON TIMER!

Serve hot with softened butter and warmed maple syrup.  The original poster recommends fresh berries.  I want to try it with sweetened fresh whipped cream.  I am also thinking about adding chopped pecans to the batter in the iron a la Waffle House.

*Update:  Muffin, who slept through breakfast, ate almost one whole waffle.  These are definitely Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

What is your favorite waffle recipe?

Sunday Supper: Oven Fried Chicken With the Fixins

On last Monday’s Meal Plan Monday, I had planned on cooking two recipes from two Junior League of Lafayette cookbooks (Talk About Good and Tell Me More):  Oven Fried Chicken and Corn Pone Pie.  Um.  This was one of those weeks where my weekend cooking didn’t happen.  So that meant that my cooking plans went completely awry.  Neither got made last weekend.  Prep work for the remaining meals was kaput.  A lot of eating off of the meal plan happened…which means eating out.  The good news is…that made planning this week that much easier.

Back on went both dishes…the chicken for today and the Corn Pone Pie for Monday.  And I managed to prep the chili for the corn pone pie…not quite as good as my chili attempts…but not bad.  Tomorrow all I’ll have to do is dump the chili mixture in the pan, mix up the corn bread mix, pour it over, and bake for a bit at 375.

Easy peasy cheesy.  Might add cheese to the mix to make it that much better.  See?  That’s how things go south on me following recipes.  I over think the recipes.

Once upon a time my mom would make oven fried chicken fairly often.  It’s one of the smells that is still locked tight in my olfactory bank as the epitome of comfort food.  She always cooked it in her convection oven that was roughly the same size as a large microwave.  She would cook it in shortening and turn it patiently throughout cooking.  It was delicious.

The recipe in Talk About Good used butter as the fat medium…and far less than Mom’s shortening method…only 1 stick (1/2 cup).  I wasn’t sure that would be enough, so I had Josh coat the foil-lined pan with shortening.  (A backyard hole managed to snag my foot yesterday making today’s weekly meal prep problematic.  And painful.)  Other than that, I followed the recipe (although I think next time I might use plain breadcrumbs and season them myself).

Here were the photogenic results (served with Loaded Scalloped–boxed–Potatoes, greens, and a dollop of red pepper jelly in lieu of cranberry sauce or ligonberry preserves from IKEA):

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Now, the chicken was Muffin Approved.  But oddly enough, his favorite part was the “leaves off of the trees” (greens) because they were his favorite color, green.  That was the only thing he ate a second helping of.

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And yes…I did drink my swee’tea out of a champagne flute.  It should be the serving vessel of choice for all Southern princesses.  And, yes, for those of you who have read the blog since the beginning, Josh made the tea.

I’ve decided, also, that pepper jelly is a perfectly acceptable substitute for cranberry sauce or ligonberry preserves.  Of course, I believe pepper jelly is a great cure all for all ills.  I recently found a jar of it for less than $2 at Walmart (as I was in a desperate search to cover some nekkid cream cheese to spread on a cracker for a baby shower).  We may have devoured a second log of pepper jelly-coated cream cheese with crackers yesterday.  Just possibly.  Luckily there was just enough to eat with supper tonight.

P.S.:  Pepper jelly goes great with greens and oven fried chicken…jus’ sayin’.

A…ny…way…

Here’s what I did…with the chicken…

Oven Fried Chicken

Source:  Talk About Good, The Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana

page 225…if you were wondering (And yes…Like most Junior League cookbooks…this one is worth the buy)

chicken pieces (I used 4 meaty thighs and 4 meaty drumsticks)

2 eggs, well beaten with 2 tablespoons of water

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I went fancy and used the good stuff…shredded…from Sam’s)

2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

1 stick butter, melted

salt, pepper, onion salt and garlic powder to taste

Pat chicken dry.  Mix dry ingredients.  Dip chicken into egg-water mixture and press all “sides” of the chicken in crumbs until well coated.  Re-roll in crumbs as necessary.  Place in foil-lined jelly roll pan (or something with a higher lip…trust me) which has been lightly greased with shortening.  Spoon butter carefully over the tops of the chicken pieces (the butter will slide off if you just drizzle it on…think more of a “floating” maneuver with alcoholic drinks).  Bake at 325 for one hour.

Now…as we did all dark meat…it was still incredibly juicy.  I would think it would still be so with white meat, but I cannot guarantee it.

As a side note…I am presently enjoying iced tea cooled with lemon sorbet.  Great fun.  I didn’t take a picky, but it’s really good.  And a refreshing treat to blog to.

As I said, this meal was Muffin Approved, especially the greens.

Muffin Approved

What was your Sunday Supper this week?